Bush’s Cuba ploy

It must be difficult for Bush and the far right to deal with the fact that the Republican-controlled Congress just doesn’t agree with his confrontational policy towards Cuba.

Last week Bush announced new tightening of travel restrictions and expansion of anti-communist media intrusions into Cuba. No doubt it is a crude ploy to round up right-wing anti-Cuba votes for 2004. But he’s on the wrong track.

The majority of Cuban Americans support engagement, not confrontation, with Cuba. For the fourth consecutive year the House of Representatives voted to end the travel ban. And for the first time, the Senate is set to do likewise.

Why does Congress oppose the White House Cuba policy? In a letter to Republican and Democratic Senate leaders, a bipartisan working group of ten senators noted that, while other nations trade with Cuba, current U.S. policy “places our farmers, workers and companies at an international competitive disadvantage.” The U.S. is losing out on an export market of nearly $1 billion a year, the senators said.

Annually 300,000 Americans travel to Cuba without permission, for fun, sun, rum and, yes, people-to-people diplomacy. The facts speak for themselves. Bans on travel and trade are not what the people or Congress want.

The cruelest hoax in the Bush re-election campaign shenanigans is his pledge to increase the number of Cubans allowed to enter the U.S. legally. In the past year, the Bush administration has processed a fraction of Cuban applications for immigration, in hopes of setting off a “boat people” crisis. At the same time, the White House has threatened to take military action against boats headed toward the U.S., to defend our borders from terrorists.

Bush calls for “free and fair” elections in Cuba and for Fidel Castro to step down as preconditions for easing the trade and travel bans. In fact, “free and fair” elections right here in the U.S., and the defeat of Bush and the far right in 2004, are the key to better U.S.-Cuba relations.

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A racist Republican power grab

With House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) pulling the strings, the Texas legislature has enacted and Gov. Rick Perry has signed a new congressional district plan aimed at adding eight Republicans to the Texas House delegation in Washington.

The plan segregates African Americans and Latinos into a handful of districts, making them political ghettoes. For example, Rep. Martin Frost, a Democrat who represents parts of Dallas, had African American neighborhoods torn out of his district and lumped with the district of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Black Democrat.

Frost charges that the aim of this “Perrymandering” is to plant in white voters’ minds the idea that the Democratic Party is the “party of minorities.” Gov. Perry’s spokesperson, Bob Richter, didn’t even bother to deny it. “In a way it may be true,” he said. “Look at the makeup of the Texas House: 62 Democrats and only 19 Anglos, no Anglo woman.”

He defended the new districts as “opportunity districts” but in fact this map reduces the clout of Black and Latino voters in violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It is possible to draw lines to apportion the Black and Latino vote in two or more districts so that, together with a bloc of white voters, two Black or Latino candidates can win elective office, not just one. Clumping the Black and Latino vote, as the DeLay-inspired plan does, undermines that possibility. It also destroys the multiracial unity of racially diverse districts. It reinforces the racist notion that no white voter will cast a ballot for an African American candidate no matter how qualified. It is just as racist as “at large” districts that also dilute the impact of Black voters by undermining their ability to unite behind a candidate in a single district.

If approved by the Justice Department, the DeLay plan will be challenged in the courts. We salute the valiant Texas lawmakers who fought this racist power grab, and join in demanding that it be rejected.